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Stopping global violence against women can start with U.S.

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LatinaLista — When stories filter across the Atlantic that rape is escalating as a weapon of warfare or that honor killings are still taking place or we hear stories that human trafficking of young girls and boys is as big a business for drug cartels as trafficking illegal drugs, then it’s time to take a stand.

While most of us can’t personally combat the violence being perpetuated against certain women and girls, we can support the passage of the bipartisan legislation due to come before Congress in the coming weeks called the International Violence Against Women Act.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is a historic and unprecedented effort by the United States to address violence against women globally.

It was introduced in the 110th Congress by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), and in the House by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA); it is expected to be reintroduced in 2009. The I-VAWA directs the U.S. government to create a comprehensive, 5-year strategy to reduce violence in 10-20 diverse countries that have severe levels of violence against women and girls.

To achieve this goal, the Act authorizes more than $1 billion over 5 years in U.S. assistance to support international programs that prevent and respond to violence. The funds will go to health programs and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change of public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity projects and education, and better address violence against women in humanitarian situations.

The I-VAWA also makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority. It creates an Office of Global Women’s Initiatives in the State Department to coordinate all efforts to combat violence against women. It also creates the Office of Global Women’s Development at the Agency for International Development (USAID), which will be responsible for integrating violence prevention programming into current foreign assistance activities.

On October 1, 2009, the results of a public poll were released showing voters’ attitudes when it comes to supporting the legislation. Among the survey’s findings was:

Reducing violence against women and girls is a high priority to voters when compared to other priorities like promoting democracy and trade, fighting corruption abroad, and reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan.

In recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in support of passage of the I-VAWA , Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler outlined the reasons why it makes sense for the United States to take such an active and leading role in internationally combatting violence against women:

Much of the support here in Congress to address violence against women emanates from high-profile emergencies like the crises in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s a commendable impulse to respond to emergencies, but violence against women and girls is an emergency every day.

We need a response that is sustained and durable enough to address not just today’s emergencies, but those that lie ahead. The days of piecemeal solutions must end. It is time for a bold and transformative piece of legislation. We need this Congress to pass – and fund – the International Violence Against Women Act. Thank you


(At the Family Violence Prevention Fund website page dedicated to the International Violence Against Women Act, you can find information under the “Action Center” section on how to contact your legislator and urge passage of this bill.)

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